INDIANAPOLIS (IndyIndians.com) - An unearned run allowed the Charlotte Knights to take game one of a four-game series against the Indianapolis Indians 1-0 in a Monday night pitchers duel at Victory Field.
It was a brilliant start to a series that could be a preview of the first round of the International League playoffs: if the season were to end today, the IL West-leading Indians would host the IL South-leading Knights in the first two games of the postseason. Despite the heartbreaking loss on Monday night, Indianapolis (71-46) boasts the league's best record with second-place Charlotte (66-52) just five games behind.
Before an unusual eighth inning gave the Knights a 1-0 lead, the starters for each team captured the attention for the first six and a half innings of the ballgame.
For the Indians, RHP Chris Leroux continued a stretch of impressive pitching that started with four scoreless innings of relief on July 23 at Toledo and culminated on Monday night with seven scoreless innings of one-hit baseball. During that four-game stretch, which included his first string of three consecutive starts since 2006, Leroux (7.0 IP, 1 H, 5 K) has allowed just two earned runs and three walks in 22.0 innings, totaling 18 strikeouts.
As good as Leroux was, Charlotte RHP Dylan Axelrod was even better early on, throwing three perfect innings to start his outing before ultimately allowing three hits and two walks through six innings pitched. It was the first outing for Axelrod (6.0 IP, 3 H, 2 BB, 5 K) since spending a short stint on the disabled list.
As great as each pitcher was, neither of them factored into the game's final decision. Only eight total batters had reached base by the time the starters made way for their respective relief corps.
Charlotte finally broke through in the top of the eighth inning. After a groundout, CF Jared Mitchell doubled down the right-field line. Tribe reliever Jose Diaz then induced a strikeout, but Knights C Josh Phegley, a former Indiana Hoosier, was safe at first after beating the tag at first on a dropped-third-strike play.
Diaz (2.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 K) then dialed up another strikeout, but SS Tyler Saladino was hit by a pitch to load the bases before a soft line drive to right field off the bat of DH Greg Golson fell in for a single and scored Mitchell. Tribe RF Brandon Boggs made an excellent throw to the plate to gun down Phegley and end the inning, but the damage was done and Charlotte was on its way to a 1-0 victory, hanging Diaz with the tough-luck loss.
For Charlotte, RHP Jhan Marinez (2.0 IP, 1 BB) allowed just one walk in two innings en route to picking up the win, improving to 3-2 on the season. Former Indiana State University RHP Brian Omogrosso (1.0 IP, 2 K) struck out two in a perfect ninth inning to record his sixth save for the Knights.
The Indians are expected to send RHP Daniel Cabrera (5-5, 4.19) to the mound for Tuesday's 7:05 p.m. game two. Charlotte, meanwhile, will likely counter with former Indiana State RHP Matt Zaleski (4-5, 3.98).
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